On Monday afternoon, I was on the judging panel at the finale of the TechConnect programme where we listened to our seven teams of public-private early professionals present the projects they had been working on during the past 12 weeks. I tell you, Britain’s Got Talent has nothing on those teams!! We heard top quality presentations examining how to solve cross-government issues ranging from the environment and healthcare to homelessness and access to benefit.
This made our job as judges really exciting as well as really difficult. This was so much the case that we ended up picking two winning teams, who will both present their projects to John Manzoni, Chief Executive of the Civil Service and Permanent Secretary for the Cabinet Office.
The power of partnerships
When we first thought about this programme, we had no idea what to expect in terms of output. What we did know is that we wanted to give people an opportunity to work collaboratively across sectors so that they could learn from each other, exchange ideas and forge relationships.
The depth, breadth and scope of the presentations and demos we saw this week really demonstrated what we can achieve when we work together in an ecosystem, and the power of partnerships. Listening to the people on the stage, I could not tell who was a civil servant and who was from the private sector: I simply saw teams of people working together towards a common goal.
And the winner is...
There is no doubt that all seven proposals put forward by the teams had the potential to make a real difference in terms of policy and impact, and each of them focused on the end user and the benefits to wider society. However, after some deliberation we settled on the four projects that stood out the most:
- In third place was Team Honeybadger, who looked at how we could use data and gamification to help people make everyday sustainable choices which have a direct impact on mitigating climate change
- In second place, Team Street Connect explored ways to support rough sleepers with finding local services and hostel beds that meet their needs, working with telecom partners to ensure users can access free WiFi to access an online self-service portal
- In joint first, we chose Team Tomlinson for their work on ‘GovVault’, an innovative and secure way citizens could share official documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificates and passports with government departments to prove their eligibility for services
- Also joint winner, Team Independence Pay looked at taking an empathetic approach to people applying for Personal Independence Payments, using a simple online process that also allows applicants to track their progress
Working together across boundaries
Overall, TechConnect showed that government can do things differently: we can work innovatively in an agile way and we can remove barriers in terms of how we launch, develop and implement something. I also heard from participants that they really valued the time spent working together across boundaries, getting to know and learn from each other.
In the words of MoD Faststreamer Ben Belward:
TechConnect was a great way to appreciate the scale and fascinating nature of public sector challenges - from environment to health to noise pollution. As well as being a great learning experience, it was a chance to meet some really smart and talented people and experience new ways of working across the digital and technology industry.
Whichever way we look at it, it seems that we have a smashing success on our hands!
Chief Digital and Information Officer, HMRC
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